Monday, September 28, 2009

Oregon airmen get ready: You may be tapped for domestic emergency response missions

ARLINGTON, Va. (9/25/09) -- The commander of the Oregon Air National Guard said he is committed to preparing his airmen for future domestic missions after a week-long conference participants called “hugely successful.”

Oregon Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Bruce W. Prunk said he hopes to bring a more robust domestic operations mission to his state as a result of data coming out of the Domestic Operations Essential-10 Requirements (DOERs) conference held in Arlington, Va., Sept. 21-25.

The event brought together Air Guard leaders from across the country to discuss organizational requirements in order to fulfill future domestic operations missions.

“I will stay committed to keeping our folks engaged, and try to get us the best training and equipment that we can to support the domestic operations mission,” Prunk said.

Prunk, who is vice chairman of the Strategic Planning System’s western region, said input from all 54 states and territories was instrumental in formulating the Air Guard’s future plan for domestic emergencies and helped to identify shortfalls in equipment and gaps in mission capability.

The data will be compiled into a book that will be presented to congressional representatives and military leadership to lobby for increased funding, equipment, and training for the Air National Guard.

“We hope to use this information going forward when we build budgets or talk to the Senate or the House on what we need in the Oregon Air Guard, so (we can) support civilian authorities during an emergency,” Prunk said.

The DOERs book will mimic the highly successful Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Weapons and Tactics Conference or WEPTAC held each October in Tucson, Ariz.

Prunk said that conference yields important guidelines for upgrades to current Air Force weapons systems like the F-15, F-16, and C-130. “We’re trying to go that same route to build future missions, upgrades and requirements for the domestic operations support,” he said.

Conference attendees divided the DOERs requirements into several key areas. Requirements in command and control, engineering, medical, personnel, communications, transportation, security and logistics support were scrutinized for existing shortcomings and gaps, which were addressed during a number of sessions throughout the week.

One area of concern for Oregon is the heavy reliance on the Oregon Army National Guard for airlift capability. With the increasing operations tempo for Oregon Army National Guard assets like the CH-47 Chinook and C-23 Sherpa aircraft, the Oregon Air Guard lacks the ability to move large amounts of cargo and equipment on its own, Prunk said.

“We don’t have a lot of airlift capability available in the Air Guard that would be able to help or supplement the Army during emergencies,” he said.

Prunk’s team also identified interoperability of communications across Oregon. Due to the size of the state, and geographical challenges, such as the mountain ranges and the high desert, troops may have trouble communicating over vast distances.

Prunk cited the ORARNG’s existing Joint Information Site Communications Capability, and suggested another JISCC system as a solution to this problem.

“We definitely have a need for a second system,” Prunk said.

A third area of concern is the ability to move heavy equipment around at either of the two fighter wings in Oregon. Prunk said after the Air Force Reserve closed the 939th Air Refueling Squadron at the Portland Air Guard Base, the wing lost the ability to process large cargo aircraft like the C-5, C-17 and C-130.

Having that ground equipment is important should a regional disaster occur, “We have great ramp space and great logistics people,” Prunk said. “(But) we just don’t have the equipment to support that sort of large-scale operation.”

Prunk said the Oregon Air Guard does have the skills and ability to support the Air Force’s newest missions, cyber warfare. But Oregon’s citizen-airmen still need adequate training and equipment in order to fulfill this mission effectively, he said. He hopes results from the DOERs conference will help convince military and government leadership to locate one of 20 proposed FEMA cyber threat response teams in Oregon.

“I think we not only have the talent, but the ability to recruit from the cyber expertise in the area, so I’m absolutely convinced we’d be able to do a very good job,” Prunk said. “I think it would make a great future mission for Oregon,”

Any plan for the Oregon Air Guard will be implemented in concert with ORARNG leadership, and Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, the adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard, with oversight from Oregon’s governor, Prunk said.

The western region includes FEMA Region 9 and 10, which encompasses the states of Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Guam. It covers eight time zones and has unique natural challenges, such as earthquakes, fires, tsunamis, and volcanoes, Prunk added.

Other regions include Central, Midwest, Atlantic and the Northeast Region which includes the territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Some of the challenges in those regions range from floods and fires to ice storms and hurricanes.

Other Oregon Air Guard leaders who participated in the conference were Col. Rick Wedan, from Joint Forces Headquarters, and Maj. Marty Plotner, Oregon’s military liaison to civilian emergency response agencies.

Some of the key areas of concern expressed for Oregon Air Guard at DOERs conference:
- Need for organic airlift capability in the Oregon Air Guard in order to suppliment ORARNG cargo lift capabilities.
- Need for communications interoperability within the Oregon Air Guard.
- Lobby for second Joint Information Site Communications Capability (JISCC) in Oregon.
- Capability for airborne search and rescue with first-responder communications in each state.
- Adequate equipment to process heavy cargo at the two fighter wings in response to natural disasters or man-made incidents.
- Designated FEMA cyber-response team in Oregon.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
National Guard Bureau Public Affairs

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